Jane Presser

Jane Presser attended school in Moorestown, New Jersey where she experienced blackouts and was involved in rationing. She graduated from New Jersey State Teachers College one semester early and later traveled to Michigan to teach. Jane spent some time after the war teaching English to Japanese boys and lived on an Air Force base. When she returned from Japan, she visited New Jersey again and met her husband. She currently resides at Heron Point.

In the interview, Jane speaks about a blackout occurring during her high school graduation and singing songs to ease the tension. While recounting her time in Japan, Jane recalls getting to know the locals through the Toastmaster’s Club, planting poplar trees, taking the train, and visiting the US consulate. She remembers how friendly the Japanese were to her and her peers during the postwar period under McArthur’s peacetime rules.

Blackout During High School Graduation

It affected our graduation mostly. The high school students, of course, were not old enough to be in the service. But then graduation night was sort of interesting. You’ll be interested in this because you graduated in the same high school. Moorestown, I would say, is about 60 miles from the shoreline, and we were aware that German submarines did patrol the shoreline. And so, every once in awhile, there would be a blackout, and it would last half an hour, and there would be 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 a week. We were graduating a certain night, and when the bleachers were all [full] in the gymnasium for graduation, and the graduation program started, and lo and behold, blackout. And we’re all on the bleachers, and our parents and friends are all on chairs on the gym floor. So what to do? Well, we sang school songs, and our parents who were from, obviously Moorestown, knew some of the school songs from when they were in school. And, of course, we all knew them very well because we’ve been singing them at football games, and so we sat there for the next half hour and sang Moorestown High School songs. Then the lights went on.

War Drives in High School

You collected metal things, you saved metal things. You saved paper things. You made stacks of newspapers, and you saved a lot of things. Of course, we were using ration cards. Shoes were rationed, some foods were rationed, sugar, and so that was what was taken care of at home. And school was pretty much the same, because none of the fellows were in the service because they were too young. 

Experience With Rationing

You had coupons, and you had to give a coupon when you bought a pair of shoes.  So that limited you to the number of pairs of shoes that you were able to buy.  You just had to be a little more careful about your use of those things.  You did with less sugar. And gasoline I believe was rationed, I’m not sure about that.  And I went to school on the bus.  I took the public service bus every morning and went to school on a bus. I didn’t need gasoline for that.  

Graduating College Early

We graduated in January because New Jersey needed teachers. And so they asked us if we would start the Monday after we finished our junior year to be seniors instead of taking a summer vacation, and go to college all through the summer, and then continue on through January, end of the first semester. And then take a job teaching. And that’s what we did. So I finished Glassborough—say on Thursday night was graduation—Monday morning I was in a classroom because they needed teachers. We would ordinarily have graduated the following June, but we graduated. And that was because of so many fellows being out in service. And that’s why they needed teachers so badly.

No Animosity from the Japanese

What we saw, in addition to the building of industry that they’re going to keep, was a mound. If you picture this apartment as being round, it was at least this big [holds up her hands] and it was a mound. It was a burial ground, and it had poplar trees planted all around it. You have to remember, this is 1955, 10 years after the bombing, and poplar trees grow very fast, and they had planted poplar trees. So Fran and I thought, “Well, we’ll step outside the hotel, see if we think it’s safe to be out in the dark.” And you know, the streetlights were on. “Yeah, OK, we’ll take a walk, yeah, OK.” So we’re taking our walk, we found a place that we thought would be a good place to stop for tea and cake, and we did, no problem. I never encountered any animosity.